Friday, January 18, 2008

Can you be content?

How do you talk money with your spouse? MP Dunleavy's newest NYT article discusses how she talks finances with her spouse. For them, they enjoyed a conversation in the car while driving. But rather than a serious talk they discussed light-heartedly about what potential future the would have if they had a windfall of money.

An interesting line in the article was that MP's DH thinks that saving money and having more is greedy. If that's so, then check me into that lifestyle, I'd love to save more and have more money period.

But MP suggests that to live a lifestyle they dream of they'd need to earn $35k/year. Not a ton, and definitely a reachable number. Within that number she dreamed of $9k/year retirement savings (10%), $7k vaction, and $19k/year extras. She said this was totally possible because her husband had just started working part-time ($500/month) for the larger mortage. How this $6k/year extra translates into $35k, I'm not sure, but heck she's dreaming.

But something MP fails to see is a lack of contentment. They make a great income $72k/year, her husband can stay at home, and yet they are wishing for a $7k vacation and new car. From the previous article they have trouble saving for retirement, are unable to save for a 3 month emergency fund, and can easily waste $10k mindlessly. Will they really be able to save $9k for retirement if they were making $35k/year more? Or would it just go to increase a lifestyle?

Trust me, I'm all for increasing your lifestyle. You work hard and deserve it. But having credit card debt, car loans, no savings, implies that you are unable to afford the lifestyle you think you deserve. You are living a lifestyle you want but haven't achieved.

MP is the epitomy of Americans. Living well beyond her means. She doesn't save for emergencies, she doesn't save for retirement. Basically she's been living paycheck to paycheck. So her lifestyle isn't one of someone living on 75% and saving 25%, it's someone living 100% or 110% if you count consumer debt.

And the desire to still want more? Where does it stop? How does it stop? Can you ever become content?

I feel that if you are content with your lifestyle you'll be able to weather whatever life throws at you. That you'll be able to manage because you are happy with many intangible factors and the monetary numbers are worthless. Plus you'll be used to living on less and saving so you'll be able to survive a job loss, death, etc.

I think it's great to have dreams, goals, ambitions. But still being content with what you have is the way to financial freedom.


Data Babble said...

The key is to live below your means. But in this society it becomes harder and harder. It seems as though friends and family are always making us feel bad for not living in the moment and spending like crazy (like they do). And, on the flip side, you have to listen to them complain about not having money... I just don't get it!

PiggyBankBlues said...

the carnival of money stories is up and running!